First person: Thanksgiving without turkey?

A turkey drumstick for Thanksgiving. | Flickr/ D. Sharon Pruitt

A turkey drumstick for Thanksgiving. | Flickr/ D. Sharon Pruitt

As our family ate tacos and cupcakes on the occasion of my grandmother’s 65th birthday last week, my four-year-old brother Bryce—the youngest of the seven of us, four of whom were present—asked her, “Nana, what are we doing for Thanksgiving?”

He had a huge smile on his face while he waited for an answer, but my grandmother, with whom I live in Watts, and my mother and I all looked down in shame. No one wanted to be the one to tell him that we didn’t have anything planned for Thanksgiving. Or that we weren’t certain whether we would be able to come up with something.

Thanksgiving is supposed to be a day of appreciation and celebration. If nothing else, it’s the one day out of the year when my entire family gets together at my grandmother’s house.  Normally, I work nights at LAX and go to school during the day at Long Beach City College, where I study sociology. Thanksgiving is a day off. My six siblings come over from my mom’s place in Lomita. Other relatives from far and wide make a point of getting back, despite how busy they are. [Read more…]

Residents Line Up for Annual Turkey Giveaway

A line of people began forming as early as 8 a.m. on Monday, for a chance to receive a free Thanksgiving meal outside of Jackson Limousines’ fleet yard in South Los Angeles.

E.J. Jackson, founder and president of Jackson Limousine Service, was initially worried because donations were significantly low, but said corporate and local donations picked up before Tuesday’s giveaway.

“Walk by faith not by sight…I’d be lying if I told you I didn’t have any doubts, but I knew God would provide,” said Jackson, who has been giving away turkey dinners for the past 30 years.

Volunteers were lined up along a table bagging fresh produce such as broccoli, tomatoes, bell peppers and celery. The plastic bags were then placed into a cardboard box with other Thanksgiving items like a box of cornbread mix and stuffing. image

The frozen turkeys were still safely packed away.

“This helps me get in the holiday spirit by helping the less fortunate,” said South L.A. resident, T.J. Falls. “I have two jobs…I don’t mind volunteering because when you’re doing it from the heart you don’t get tired.”

Eve McCraw and Resee Coney were the first in line for Tuesday’s giveaway, arriving at the entrance at 8 a.m.

The two said it has been difficult to find help in South Los Angeles during the holiday season because many places have been cutting back on food donations.

“It’s a blessing,” said Coney.

McCraw said she has been receiving Thanksgiving dinners from Jackson since 2009 and every year, she has seen the crowd grow.

Over the last four years, a growing number of those waiting in line have been from cities outside of South L.A. like San Bernardino and Ontario, according to Fatty Jackson, organizer and nephew of E.J. Jackson.

Fatty continued that he has also seen the line start earlier each year with residents lining up one and even two days before the giveaway.

“It’s been more of a mixed crowd – all nationalities over the last four years. There’s more young mothers, single mothers and senior citizens,” said Fatty.

Jackson’s nephew has been volunteering for the past 17 years and helps ensure the donation process runs smoothly.

He said each year they have been able to speed up the process and prevent any confusion, especially with the help of the Los Angeles Police Department and the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s.

While donations have dropped over the last two years, he believes they will still be able to serve about 4,000 people.

He feels the reason the turkey giveaway is able to continue is because of his uncle’s passion for giving back to the community.

“Sometimes people don’t want to give because they don’t know where the money is going to, but with my uncle, you can see where it’s going,” said Jackson.

Turkey for all in South LA

imageE.J. Jackson knew how desperately people would need him this year.

Before dawn he was up, lighting bonfires for the people already in line for his turkey giveaway.

He’s been doing this for 23 years, but this year the need was the worst he’s ever seen.

His volunteers have been working nonstop for the last few days.

“…We had to make up 20,000 boxes, 20,000 turkeys…And it gets bigger and bigger and bigger.”

Jodie Fallon’s a volunteer with the Jackson Limousine Dinner Giveaway.

She said last year it pulled in ten thousand people, tops.

Last week, Jackson was worried the donations would fall far short of the need.

But corporate and private donors stepped up to help.

Now he’s emptying two mac-trucks full of frozen turkey.

Since four in the morning, Fallon’s been…

“…Packing and packing and we’re still packing right now…I just had to get a break. I snuck out….but it’s a really good event and it helps a lot of people. See how many people out here?”

One of these people is Dee Brown. I met her when she was getting her friend to help her cut in front of people who’d been waiting in line since last night.

“Are people going to be okay with that? I hope so, I’m just going to slide in and pretend like I was part of the picture”

If you can’t tell by the lack of line etiquette, she’s new here.

She used to work in a hospital but got laid off. Her income’s all dried up.

And finding herself in line for food? It’s…

“Humbling, very humbling.”

She says her unemployment check hardly covers the rent. And everywhere, prices are rising.

“Well times are hard. You know, inflation goes up… Everything went up. You know, just a bag of potato chips is five dollars…But I didn’t notice that until I got laid off. And so when they offer things out here for the community, you know at the time I didn’t need it, but now since I’m laid off, I’m out here just like everybody else.”

Which is exactly why Jackson feels he has to return every year, Turkeys and groceries in hand, the Santa of Thanksgiving.

Angelenos celebrate different Thanksgiving traditions

Listen to the audio story:


Read what different people had to say about their traditions:

My thanksgiving celebration is a fairly traditional one.

I celebrate for a long, long, time.

In Taiwan, we didn’t consider Thanksgiving as a very meaningful holiday, but we do celebrate it.

When I was young, we had kind of a different Thanksgiving. There’d be a lot of American traditional food but also Korean food. But nowadays, we celebrate it more traditional American style, with turkey and mashed potatoes.

Chicken, fruit, salad, everything vegetable.

Maple syrup for salads and stuff, and also they like the cranberries with flavoring.

Sometimes, we just buy chicken from Costco, and enjoy the chicken.

I’m not a good cooker, so I don’t really do anything.

Basically, we just wait for family to come over, or we go to my mom’s house.

The whole family gets together. Each member of the family bakes or cooks something, and brings it to the table, and we prepare the food together, we laugh, we make jokes, we watch football on TV and basically have time to spend together with family members.

Photo courtesy of The Boston Globe